In the dead of summer, what’s better than a nice, fresh, fruit juice popsicle? Making them at home is a great way to save calories and money, but also requires preparation (usually overnight). And I don’t know about you, but I’m too impatient for that, so every time I’ve been in a Williams-Sonoma this summer, I’ve been drawn to the Zoku Quick Pop Maker, which promises popsicles in 10 minutes. When my husband surprised me with one for my birthday, I couldn’t wait to start using it. The Zoku does not disappoint.
The kit includes the Quick Pop Maker, six sticks (and pop-on drip guards) and the Super Tool, which twists on the sticks to remove the pops with consistent, even pressure. He also got me the storage case (which keeps 6 pops airtight and fresh). Other accessories include a recipe book and an accessories kit which includes fill cups, a siphon, fruit placer, fruit cutters and angle tray (we’ll talk about what those would be for later). The Quick Pop Maker is a heavy set of molds (you can get either 2 or 3 pop makers) that you keep in your freezer. The liquid around the molds stays frozen and becomes what allows the molds to freeze your pops so quickly. Your basic ice pop is simply chilled fruit juice, poured carefully into the molds. In 7-9 minutes, according to the book, your pop is frozen and ready to eat. Because the mold doesn’t need to be placed back in the fridge, you actually can watch the pop freeze right in front of you.
My first criticism of the Zoku is that I don’t seem to be able to get my freezer and/or the mold down to the right temperature. Zoku recommends 0 degrees Farenheit, but my freezer will only get to about 5 degrees on its coldest setting. To counteract this, I just put the mold back in the freezer and add a couple minutes to the timer. Slightly less convenient, but not a huge deal.
How does the product turn out, though, you’re wondering? GREAT! I initially tried it with Minute Maid Orange Juice, Welch’s Strawberry Breeze juice and Dole’s Pina Colada juice. All flavors were delicious. And when done with just juice, nothing special added, it makes for a really novel (and refreshingly cold) way to drink your OJ or other juice. When you start experimenting with add-ins and filled core pops, though, that’s where the Zoku Quick Pop Maker gets really fun.
My first try was with core pops. Core pops are treats like Creamsicles, where orange goodness covers a core of vanilla ice cream. I tried at first with strawberry juice and raspberry sherbet and while it was delicious, it didn’t make for the best visual, so in the interest of journalism, I just had to buy some vanilla ice cream and try again. To make a core pop is a three step process. First, you pour your juice into the molds as normal and let the outside freeze just enough to make a good shell. Any more and you’ll have a completely juicy tip to your core pop. Next, use the official siphon (or a straw if you’re cheap like me and don’t have a cold to spread around) and siphon out or suck out the unfrozen juice from the mold. Make sure to get down in the bottom to get those last bits. Third, take your core mix and slowly and carefully fill the rest of the mold. To make my quick mold, I just used about four scoops of vanilla ice cream and let it sit on the counter for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it was somewhat soupy. When filling, I occasionally poked at ice cream backups with the straw to get the filling all the way in there. The inner core will take a little longer to freeze than the juice alone, but after about 12 minutes (back in the freezer), it was ready to eat and delicious. The Cake on the Brain blog has a couple more recipes for filled core pops adapted from the Zoku recipe book.
Next, I tried some add-ins. On hand, I had peaches and raspberries and took to cutting them up for delicious ice pops.
The slices of peaches were for the outside of the pops and the bits were for
mixing in the juice. The manual advises that add-ins can be placed on the sides of the molds, as long as they don’t interfere with the placement of the stick. When placing fruit on the molds, it sticks FAST. Think of that tongue on pole scene from A Christmas Story. You have to work quickly.Fruit works much better mixed in with the juice, but will still tend to clump up, so a skewer or toothpick is helpful. Again, pops will take a little longer than a normal batch to freeze, so after some extra time:
You can’t really see the other pieces so well in this one, but the additional texture and taste of the fruit really added something delightful to the ice pop. The Zoku blog posts new recipes about weekly (including one for Mimosa Pops that will be getting made the next time I pick up champagne).
The disadvantages: while you can make your own juice or smoothie mixes to use in the molds, the Zoku manual advises against using artificial sweeteners. One of the keys to easy removal is a fine balance of sugar content in the liquid. This makes it somewhat difficult to decrease the amount of sugar and/or calories that you’re making, if that’s a concern. I have yet to try out different sweeteners to see what their effect is, but a quick googling shows that people do have good results with natural sweeteners such as agave nectar and honey.
A minor quibble is the length of the sticks. While I’m sure they’re designed specifically to give the most leverage for easy removal, the sticks leave no room for any pure ice pop at the bottom. Even with an adult sized mouth (it’s really hard not to go for the cheap jokes here, trust me), it’s hard to get to the ice at the bottom of the pop without getting half your face juicy. I imagine it’s a lot more difficult for kids.
Overall, it’s a fun gadget that’s probably a little pricey thanks to its pleasing aesthetics and nifty accessories. There are competing similar devices that start at about twenty dollars less. If you have the money to splurge on it, though, and are a fan of ice pops, you’ll have fun with it.
Photocredit: Featured Image courtesy zokuhome.com. All other images courtesy author.
Disclaimer: No money or promotional items were given for this review. Although, if Zoku really wants, I wouldn’t turn down their Tool Kit.